Scientific Vision Of Lord Mahāvīra ► [06] Biological Issues In The Bh.S ► Size Of The Soul

Posted: 28.08.2009

According to Jainism, the soul is eternal but not all pervasive. Though it has a capacity of pervasion throughout the cosmos yet, it pervades the body, it occupies except the condition of Samudghāta (Astral projection).[81] The medium of motion, the medium of rest, cosmos and a soul occupy the equal number of space units.[82] The medium of motion, the medium of rest and cosmos are not receptive and they do not act or react with any external force. Therefore, there is no external effect on them. On the other hand, the soul existing in worldly stage receives physical substance at every moment and acts with its help. Consequently, there is no uniformity in the activity and the effects of the soul. It is capable of expansion and contraction in accordance with the body, it occupies. Therefore, the soul is stated to be of madhyama-parimāṇa i.e. intermediate size.[83]

The capacity of the soul of pervading the entire body it occupies is compared with the capacity of the light of a lamp[84] which pervades the entire room big or small. Similarly the soul in its worldly existence pervades the entire body big or small. The soul, which pervades a huge body like an elephant's, is also found in the smallest body, the body of kunthu (insect). This fact is shown in the Bh.S in the context of the equality of the soul.[85] In every part of the body the presence of soul can be realized. The question was raised whether a soul prevades the whole body of tortoises, alligators, cows, men, buffaloes, etc. even if their inner parts were cut into two or more pieces. the reply given by Lord Mahāvīra was affirmative.[86]

This characteristic of the soul is meant indirectly to refute the view of the Upaniṣadas, Naiyāyikas, Vaiśeṣikas, Sāṁkhyas, Mīmāṁsakas and the like who hold that the soul is omnipresent.

There are different views about the size of the soul (psychic entity) in Upanisadas. It has been said that the soul which is manomaya is within the heart and is of the size of a grain of rice.[87] One view describes the size of soul as equal to the thumb.[88] According to another view the soul is considered to be pervading the whole body.[89] There is also a view which accepts that soul is all-pervading.[90]

The Buddhists have not said anything precisely about the size of the citta (mind) or vijñāna (consciousness), but the haday vatthu (heart) is said to be its locus in some Buddhist works.[91] To admit a soul to be equal in extent to its own body is an isolated conception of Jainas.

The concept, which regards soul as all pervasive, i.e., present everywhere is contrary to our experience. A thing must be located where its qualities are found. For example, a book exists where its form exists and not elsewhere. The measure of a soul is only as much as that of the body it occupies. Hence, there is no soul outside the body it occupies, for its attributes are realized only in that body.

One or two main logics are presented by the Nyaya system to prove the veracity of all pervasive nature of soul. Accordingly unless an atman (soul) was all-pervasive (vibhu), how could it draw the particles of the body in which it has to dwell in the next life?

The Naiyāyikas give a further argument: if a soul is accepted as bodysized, it would be sāvayava, i.e., with parts just like the body itself. In such a condition soul cannot be said to be internal. The Jain's answer is this that soul has by nature innumerable units (pradeśas), and they are parts (avayavās) but not in an ordinary sense. The specialty of these soul-units is that at all time they are connected with each-other, by no means can they be separated.[92] If a body is cut, its parts continue to throb and retain the soul in them. After that, they rejoin the soul of the body from which they are cut. The fact behind it, is that the soul-units retain their connection with the soul as the threads of a lotus-stick remain united even when the stick is cut into two pieces.[93]

Thus, it becomes quite obvious that Jainism is the only school of Indian philosophy, which holds that the soul is body-sized. Though, as indicated before, the attributes of expansion and contraction do not really belong to the nature of the soul. Only due to the accretion of karmic particles, a mundane soul occupies a particular size corresponding to the body. Hence, in the liberated state these characteristics are absolutely absent.

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